Warning System At Ri$k

The Asian soybean rust early warning and management system may run out of key funding — soon. Is it the end of the road for soybean rust monitoring?

According to the American Soybean Association (ASA), the news is a bit disconcerting.

ASA has asked U.S. Ag Secretary Ed Schafer for help in securing funding for 2009 the soybean rust early warning and management system that has helped soybean growers manage and protect their crops. The system, known formally as the Integrated Pest Management Pest Information Platform for Extension and Education (ipmPIPE), was developed in 2004 between agencies at USDA and the soybean industry.

“After four years as the critical early warning and management system for soybean farmers to minimize the impact of Asian soybean rust, the program has no funding secured for the 2009 crop year,” says ASA President John Hoffman, a soy­bean producer from Waterloo, IA. “Without funding for the ipmPIPE system, the U.S. soybean crop — with an estimated farm-gate value of $37 billion — will be put at risk.”

Program Provides Value

The ipmPIPE has been highly effective in helping growers make informed decisions about fungicide application. The system includes a surveillance and monitoring network, a Web-based information management system, criteria for deciding when to apply fungicides, predictive modeling, and outreach. USDA’s Risk Management Agency has provided more than $2 million in funding for this program in each of the last three years.

“We regret that the broken Con­gressional appropriations process leaves us with no option but to seek USDA funding for this critical program,” Hoffman says. “Soybean farmers have been and remain willing to work with USDA. In each year since 2005, more than $500,000 of state and national checkoff funding has been contributed toward this effort. But soybean farmers cannot assume the entire responsibility and cost of this program by themselves.”

The development of the Web-based tracking and early warning system has greatly enhanced the ability of growers to manage risk and avoid unnecessary fungicide applications. USDA’s Economic Research Service has found that rust management due to ipmPIPE saved growers an estimated $299 million in 2005. Surveys conducted by land grant universities estimate a $299 million savings in 2006 and another $209 million in 2007.

“While losses due to rust have not been severe, growing conditions in the last several years have been atypical, mainly due to drought in Southern and Southeastern states, which inhibits the spread of rust,” Hoffman says. “We will not be protected from soybean rust without the tools that ipmPIPE provides.”

Request Continuation

ASA strongly supports the continuation of ipmPIPE. The risks are simply too great, and the costs too small, to abandon it now.

At presstime, ASA had asked Se­cretary Schafer for his commitment to continue this highly effective and critically important program.

“Our partnership with USDA in preparing for and now monitoring the advancement of soybean rust has been remarkable,” Hoffman says. “We commend the department for its early recognition of the dangers posed by soybean rust and for the many agencies that have reached out to growers to work together in fighting it.”

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